The Daily Stoic for July 29th, “A Cure For The Self”.
“The person who has practiced philosophy as a cure for the self becomes great of soul, filled with confidence, invincible—and greater as you draw near.”
— SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 111.2
After reading today’s stoic meditation, I have to say I cannot certainly agree that philosophy is the cure for the self. Or a cure for anything.
If you have read some of my previous posts on stoicism and philosophy, you know my opinion on philosophy and philosophers. For me, all of them were thinkers, some of them great, some of them mad. But they were not better than you or me. Neither were they right or wrong.
For me, philosophy, like art, music, or painting, is something completely subjective.
A Cure For The Self?
Hence, I cannot agree with this sentence from today’s stoic passage:
“… of all the avenues for curing our negative characteristics, philosophy has existed the longest and helped the most people”
Well, what philosophy? The problem is that philosophy does not exist as a unified concept. What we call “philosophy” is an amalgam of books, essays, and letters written by different philosophers. Sometimes, with very different approaches to every little aspect of our lives.
Think about Descartes, Epicurus, and Nietzsche. Each of them had a very different world, with radically different opinions on different things.
So… what philosophy are you following? Are you looking for the reason in everything, like Descartes, or want to delve into pleasure as a way of escaping from pain, like the Hedonists did?
That’s also why “practicing your own philosophy” does not work for me either. The Nazis did that, twisting Nietzsche’s Übermensch concept into something that justified the superiority of the Aryan race. And hence, the Holocaust.
Mankind has the ability to distort every well-intentioned philosophy or religion into something that justifies anything. No book contains the truth or will give you the answer. Instead, if you want a cure for the self, my advice: Travel. Meet new people, meet other cultures, become your own boss, learn to live on your own terms, with your own resources, grow as a person and as a professional. That’s the way of realizing that, as the Beatles said:
“And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you.”
Today’s Daily Stoic, “A Cure For The Self”, presents philosophy as a cure for the self. I certainly can’t agree. The cure for the self is not contained in a disjointed set of books written by different philosophers centuries ago. It’s out there, in the real world. You just have to get outside and discover it.